“Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco,seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez, abajo!”
It’s 7:30 a.m., and 15 young surfers aged 10-20 are wearing red or blue Wavescr.com rash guards. They have just completed a series of difficult exercises called surfing burpees: lowering from standing to a squat, surfing pose in which knees are brought inward, one arm directly pointed forward, the other bent at the elbow, both raised shoulder level. The exhausted youngsters then drop to the sand for a soothing cobra yoga pose.
Without a break, the routine repeats. “¡Uno, dos, tres…!” shouts Andrea Díaz, the Roxy, Banzaii Surfboards and Banana Wax-sponsored 1999 Costa Rican women’s surf champion and owner of Waves Costa Rica surf instruction facility in Playa Hermosa, on the central Pacific coast.
She’s a tiny thing, but a powerful surf instructor who has been doing the job for seven years.
“Cuatro, cinco…” Díaz continues, sporting the belly of a woman in her eighth month of pregnancy.At her heels is her nearly 2-year-old daughter Lia, a de facto staff member.
Waves Costa Rica, which opened two years ago, is the only Quiksilver-Roxy surf education facility in Costa Rica operated entirely by national surf champions, with surf instructors accredited by the International Surfing Association and the International Olympic Committee and holding openwater lifeguard, CPR, first aid, life-saving and water rescue certification. With this uber-qualified staff, Díaz recently instituted a service with an integrated physical training and surf-contest development program,with six-days-a-week beachside workouts, practice heats, video seminars and lectures.
The facility is headquartered in the last building on a prime surfing beach break next to Hotel Backyard in Playa Hermosa.
Díaz came up with the surf competition instruction idea, utilizing her own experience in Tico competitions as well as knowledge from her Australian surfing coach certification to initiate her strategies. She then ran everything by the Waves Costa Rica codirectors, 2001-02 national surf champion Gilbert Brown and 2002-03 champion Nino Myrie, who both took their extensive international experience and contributed it to the program.
“It’s still very present in my mind what I did in my first contest – that I did not have a single clue of what I was supposed to do: how I took off on the red flag, caught more waves than I was allowed to catch, all types of dumb mistakes,” Díaz recalls about the time when she and the first few Costa Rican girl surfers, including Brooks Wilson and Lisbeth Vindas, went into the all-boy contests.
“With a little orientation, I could have saved a lot of trial by fire. No one helped us; we had to figure it out ourselves, which we did without complaining. But after getting the contests down, and discovering how much potential we had, it was heartbreaking.We could have gotten farther, stronger, faster.”
Díaz and the other women’s surfing pioneers have fought for women’s surf contest rights for years, and opened the door for future generations to ride through.
“I am still demanding respect for what it took us so long to build, and I am not done,” Díaz says. “I have tons to give in and out of the water. That is why we are doing what we are doing now with the Waves Costa Rica program, which is about giving back to the community. We have spread the word that we are training those who are interested in doing things right.”
When word got out in Hermosa and nearby Jacó about what was going on at Waves Costa Rica, it wasn’t just young women who started coming around. Díaz, Brown and Myrie ended up with a coed mix of boys and girls, young and old, who now run, paddle, flex and train on a daily basis.
“We believe surfing involves more than your performance in the water,” Díaz says.
“We have set up an integrated physical, technical, tactical and mental surf program, passing on what each one of us is best at: Gilbert likes to focus on competitive and overall attitude; Nino preaches a focus on technical strategy and style development; and I go for physical fitness and mental strength.”
Already, the Waves Costa Rica training program is seeing tremendous results in national and international contests. The biggest recent success is Jason Torres, 17, the Jacó powerhouse who in January became the first Costa Rican ever to win a gold medal at the Pan-American Surfing Games.
Another success story is 12-year-old Lupe Galluccio. The little blonde spitfire not only is a new Roxy girl, thanks to Díaz’s recommendation, but also just scored her second first-place win in the junior women’s division at the Circuito Nacional de Surf ’s Copa Mango in Playa Dominical in February.
“My strategy for winning in Dominical came straight from all the training with Andrea and the guys,” Galluccio explains.
“Most important was not to let anything distract me while I was competing. And I have to thank them for always pushing me to go out every day, even into the worst waves.”
Back in Hermosa, Díaz plans to continue training until her baby is born. After a short break with her newborn, she’ll be back shouting out the routines, going through the fitness and mental regimens along with her clients to get back in competition shape as soon as possible.
“I thought that after she had her baby she would go a little easier,” Galluccio says, smiling. “But then I don’t think I’d really want that, because I want to keep winning.”
Surf Camps for Everyone
In addition to preparing surfers for competitions, Waves Costa Rica’s surf school offers camps year-round, either all-girls or coed. The idea, according to boss Andrea Díaz, is to limit the assemblage to five or six people, making the surf travel experience as comfortable as possible for guests, while catering to the specific needs of the group.
Díaz feels that chicas should be pampered between surf sessions on their vacations. The basic Piña Package ($350-930 for one or two ladies, from two to seven days) includes basic accommodations at a nice, clean hotel –location depends on availability at booking time – with a room that greets clientele with bottled water, fruit basket and all, breakfast and dinner at a variety of area restaurants and surf instruction, followed each day by fresh fruit and more bottled water, yoga classes at sunset and a waterfall tour. The Coco Package ($530-1,270 for one or two ladies, from two to seven days) features the same basic items plus an airport greeting and round-trip transportation, with upgraded beachfront accommodations at Hotel Ola Bonita in Playa Hermosa.
The Waves Costa Rica coed surf camp also comes in two packages. The Papaya ($315-845 for one or two people, from two to seven days) is the basic plan, offering accommodations similar to those of the Piña above, breakfast and dinner, surf instruction and the waterfall tour. The Banana ($440-1,200 for one or two people, from two to seven days) is the deluxe version of the Papaya, with airport greeting and round-trip transportation, beachfront accommodations at Hotel Bonita and a massage added for extra measure.
Surf tours are also offered on the Caribbean side of the country, in the Puerto Viejo area. For more information, visit www.wavescr.com.